The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection is one of the nation's leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of people of African descent. The core collection was donated to Temple University in 1983 by Charles L. Blockson, a Pennsylvania bibliophile and collector of Afro-Americana. As a major research facility, it provides materials, expository programs and service for Black Studies research scholars. The collection is used by a wide spectrum of researchers ranging from high school students to well-established scholars.
The Blockson Underground Railroad Collection, located at Temple University, is from the private collection of Charles L. Blockson and one of the largest in the country. The bulk of the collection contains over a thousand items on the members of the Underground Railroad as well as historical pamphlets, broadsides and memoirs the leading figures of the UGRR. Among the highly valued materials in the collection are letters of William Still.
Like his younger sister Sarah, Charles Lenox was inspired to fight for freedom by their parents John and Nancy Remond. Charles traveled as a promoter of the abolitionist paper, The Liberator. In 1833 he became an officer of the New England Anti-Slavery Society. He traveled to London for the World Anti-Slavery Convention and toured the British Isles lecturing about abolition. When he returned to the United States he began working with Frederick Douglass. The two would continue to work together intermittently through the Civil War.
John Brown organized the Chatham convention in Ontario to discuss his “Provisional Constitution.” The convention began on May 8, 1858 with white and black anti-slavery activists attending. It was held at a black schoolhouse to avoid interference by curious, white Chatham residents. At the convention Brown spoke about his plan to establish a military stronghold in the mountains that runaway slaves could use as a haven and choose to join his militant cause. Brown’s Provisional Constitution also mentioned his plans for an insurrection—his attack on Harpers Ferry. Though invited, national figures like Frederick Douglass and Jermain Wesley Loguen did not attend.
Noah Buley, Nelson Ford, and George and Joshua Hammond fled slavery in Maryland and settled in Christiana, a town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Lancaster had several African American communities that made up a sizable, strong network for runaway slaves. Two of the runaways were recognized and a posse assembled—including Edward Gorusch, the runaways’ former owner—to capture them and return them to slavery. The black community in Lancaster refused to let them be taken. As many as 150 people armed and barricaded themselves at the home of William Parker, a former slave. When the conflict ended, Gorusch and his son were dead.
Cincinnati’s black population grew from 700 residents in 1826 to 2258 residents in 1829. The dramatic population increase frightened Cincinnati’s white citizens, and the Ohio chapter of the American Colonization Society began publishing propaganda that claimed blacks were a threat to the city. Racial tensions were so bad by 1828 that the black community began planning a mass exodus to rural Ohio where they could establish a settlement. These efforts did not come together soon enough, and on August 15, 1829 a 300-member mob attacked Cincinnati’s black neighborhoods.
On July 30, 1836 a mob attacked black residents after destroying the printing press of an abolitionist newspaper called The Philanthropist. White Cincinnatians objected to the newspaper’s message and presence. Some claimed that it inspired indignation among African American residents; others claimed that it deterred Southerners from vacationing in the city during the summer months. The riot worsened Cincinnati’s already poor race relations.
The website for Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library, located in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, provides access to the library's archival and bibliographic resources on African American history. It offers information on reading material detailing the history of key people in the Underground Railroad such as William Lambert, Henry Bibb, Josiah Begole, and others.
Robert Banks, William C. Monroe and William Lambert formed the Colored Vigilant Committee in 1842. Lambert and Monroe announced the committee’s intentions in a letter printed in The Signal of Liberty. In addition to aiding runaways, the committee wanted to secure voting rights for African American men and see that black children received an adequate education equal to white students. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stimulated the committee, which would go on to help thousands of men, women and children escape to Canada.
The Daniel A. P. Murray Pamphlet Collection at the Library of Congress presents a panoramic review of African American history and culture. The collection spans almost one hundred years from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, with the bulk of the material published between 1875 and 1900. Among the authors represented are Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, Benjamin W. Arnett, Alexander Crummell, and Emanuel Love.